A GROWing Community

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Article Contributed by
Linnea Carlson

Now that spring has arrived, one’s eye is drawn to the creeping abundance of blooming flowers, honey bees emerging from their hibernation, and the lush, greenery. Spring equals growth, and the GROW Jamestown initiative welcomes it with open arms.

GROWing Pride

Formerly housed under the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, the GROW Jamestown programs officially moved under the umbrella of the Jamestown Public Market in late 2020. An unfortunate reality forced by Covid and the need for restructuring within the organization, led JRC to find a new home for the initiative, and there seemed to be no better fit than the organization dedicated to celebrating the local seasons.

GROW Jamestown, established as a community-wide partnership, has been dedicated to promoting gardening, landscaping and other greening activities within Jamestown for over a decade. Projects in the past have included the Front Yard Garden Recognition Project, the creation of several community gardens, and the annual GROW Jamestown Garden Fair, held earlier this year virtually.

According to former GROW administrator, Mary Maxwell, the programs were designed originally to empower our community around growing. “The idea was to make people feel good, encourage them to grow and invest in their properties. Strengthening our neighborhoods through landscaping or flower beds.”

GROWing Gardens

Now with the Public Market at the helm, GROW Jamestown is poised to, well, keep growing.

“We were thrilled when JRC approached us to take on the GROW efforts. Our mission is to build our city’s food system, and one way to accomplish that is to encourage our community to grow their own food” says Market Director Linnea Carlson. “We value sustainable environments and landscapes, we encourage the growth of herbs, and fresh flowers. It is all connected to a healthy food network. It just made sense.”

Currently, the Jamestown Public Market is managing several programs that support the GROW Jamestown mission. The largest being three community gardens.

Located at the corner of Lakeview and Sixth and Washington and Eighth street, the community gardens offer space for local individuals, families and groups to find joy in growing. Currently, the gardens are home to 36 beds. For the 2021 season, 30 beds have been rented to individuals and families, with six being established as ‘Grow to Give’ community gardens.

“We have several plots we refer to as ‘Community Plots’ that are being managed by our volunteers, and groups such as the Jamestown Justice Coalition and St. Luke’s/First Presbyterian’s SLY PYG youth group. This is an opportunity for groups to give back, but also to provide gardening education and fresh harvest for the wider community.”

The Public Market will also continue the ‘Great June Seedling Giveaway’, offering free seedlings donated by area nurseries, such as frequent GROW supporter Mike’s Nursery. Seedlings will be set out along the front lawn of St. Luke’s parish house, and are on a first come first serve basis. More information can be found on the Public Market’s Facebook page.

The Public Market also hopes to find ways to support other growing efforts. “One of our dedicated volunteers approached us after speaking with organizers of other community gardens, and we thought what a great opportunity to ‘catalogue’ current growing efforts, so we can support one another” Carlson says.

Plans for 2021 include making contact with other community gardens, church gardens and school gardens, to share resources and make connections. Once such connection has been with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Jamestown, who’s congregants approached the market with an idea to revitalize their small garden.

Carlson shares the joy in such projects. “They really came together as a church to beautify their garden space, and have planted radishes, fennel, various herbs. It’s been so fun to see.” Harvests will be shared with the Jamestown Mobile Market.

GROWing Knowledge

A new aspect of the GROW programs launching in 2021 will be ‘Events in the Gardens’, educational opportunities for community members to learn about all things garden and growing related.

“The market has always valued continued education, and there is so much to learn. We look at the gardens as an opportunity to expand our learning opportunities, and introduce new concepts beyond our traditional farmers market space.”

The first of these free events will be held June 4 at 4 PM, hosted by Carol Markham of the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy. Inspired by the CWC’s current LakeScapes program, which offers free yard consultations and technical landscape assistance, the presentation will focus on the benefits of native plants.

Carol Markham shares, “Landscapes that contain mostly turf grass and non-native ornamental plants cannot sustain the plant and animal ecosystems we humans need to survive. We have to start someplace and how much easier can you get than in your own backyard! This small action from each and every one of us will deliver enormous benefits to our entire community. Planting ecologically productive plants…plants with a purpose…will not only create a beautiful landscape, but it will be productive and serve a purpose for humans and insects alike.”

A second event, planned for June 24 at 6 pm, will feature Sarah Moeller of Clearwater Creek Compost. The GROW Jamestown community gardens currently house three compost piles, used by gardeners and volunteers. “Composting is an often overlooked part of our food system. But it is so vital! Composting creates beautiful soil, or what we call ‘black gold’. Our gardeners use it at the community gardens, and Sarah offers her composting pick-up service. She will present a ‘Composting 101’ to share how composting isn’t ‘dirty’, but rather fun and impactful.” Carlson states.

Both events will be held at the Lakeview Community Gardens, on the corner of Lakeview Avenue and Sixth Street.

Plans for GROWth

The Jamestown Public Market hopes that the GROW programs will continue to expand, and offer more opportunities for community. Plans include returning to an in-person event for the 2022 GROW Jamestown Garden Fair. Starting in 2011 with only 14 vendors, the event welcomed over 65 area vendors in 2019. Carlson explains ideas that may come to fruition.

“We have discussed bringing documentaries to the community, focused on sustainable growing practices. Or fun, garden themed paint nights. We are excited to explore with our Garden Fair Committee the possibilities for an amazing event next spring.”

Community members can view this 2021 Garden Fair presentations, register to volunteer for GROW programs, or learn more by visiting: www.jtownpublicmarket.org